(Ayler)

This uncharacteristic unit — Marc Ducret (guitar), Kasper Tranberg (trumpet), Matthias Mahler (trombone), Fred Gastard (bass saxophone) and Peter Brunn (drums) — reconciles with the notion of composition for small ensemble. Too often configurations like these are plagued by the excess of emancipation granted to single players, who are in dire need of ego-gratifying, though ultimately ineffective, solo displays. Ducret’s logical scores make sure that the group sound fits like a glove despite the lack of concrete restrictions, thus tickling our deep-seated fantasies about orchestral discipline. This work has a collective purpose demarcated by a series of revealing dichotomies.

“Real Thing #1” is played across a systematic interchange of roomy ambiences and clustery lumps, the players conveying their respective qualities before joining in singular combinations and swift spurts. A challenging piece whose irregular pulse constitutes a stimulating propellant, Ducret’s guitar collating off-centre riffs and oblique counterpoints in constant sync with Bruun’s mind-expanding drumming. “Real Thing #2” is more “regular”, at least until the fourth minute: there, an unvoiced lunacy seems to arise under the facade of impeccable arrangements. Then it’s instantly gone, as the quintet reprises its articulated angularity within structures that sound complex, never bamboozling. “Interlude: L’Ombra Di Verdi” (“Verdi’s Shadow”) is a rocking conclusion, provided that one decodes additional doses of fractured meters and doesn’t trade the boss’ saturated tones for some wannabe in search of a contract with ECM. The so-called riffage is left to the wind instruments, brawny vamps imbued with lucid antagonism amidst Grand Wazoo-ish aromas. The whole ends in rarefied rallentando, an uncomfortable funeral march for gratuitous virtuosity.

The rational vivacity spiced with sharp discord characterizing the entire disc reminded yours truly of David Torn’s Everyman Band, even if the music is obviously dissimilar. A comparable slightly irritated approach is what assures a satisfying result, at the antipodes of the “gazing-in-the-mirror-of-formula” lassitude to which many artists working in adjoining areas have miserably made us accustomed.

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